Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.
While we stay home to save lives, protecting the environment is still an important part of remaining healthy. With Earth Day just three weeks away, CalRecycle launches our online Earth Month Extravaganza today in collaboration with the rest of CalEPA!Follow and engage with us on social media throughout April and join us for a special Earth Day event on April 22nd.You can still make a positive difference from home. Help us turn Earth Day’s 50th Birthday into a movement!
- Look for games, at-home conservation tips, and an eco-scavenger hunt from CalEPA and its office, boards, and departments throughout April.
- Join CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld for virtual coffee breaks throughout the month with special guests who will share exciting, innovative ideas and projects.
- Inspire California with your secrets to help the environment.
Use #HowISavethePlanet to share how you and your family protect our environment every day.
Use #WhyISavethePlanet to show California what inspires you to protect the Earth – including your children and favorite places in nature.
- Like and share your colleagues’ posts – and CalEPA will do the same.
- On April 22, tune into the CalEPA’s Earth Day online event for fun, informative, and inspiring moments.
- Invite your kids, friends, and community organizations to participate!
- Don’t forget to use #CalEPAEarthDay50 on all of your posts!
These last weeks have shown that we can all work together remotely to protect our health. Let’s harness this unity to make the whole planet healthier.
Share your thoughts and insights with us on your favorite social media platforms through the following links:Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Staff on Apr 3, 2020
After a catastrophic wildfire, getting “back to normal” is nearly impossible for any single property owner to handle. A family’s ability to rebuild—and the livability of the neighborhood—depends on what the family next door does, as well as the family next to them.
Todd Thalhamer at the site of the 2007 Boles Fire in Weed, Siskiyou County.
“Who wants to be the first house that’s developed, when you look out the window and all you see is nothing but ash and debris?” asks CalRecycle engineer Todd Thalhamer, the architect of a program that has cleaned up nearly 20,000 homes in the last decade. “When it comes right down to it, it’s a psychological issue—and a property value issue. If you clean up everything, you jump-start a community.”
The Integrated Waste Management Board, which later morphed into CalRecycle, started the Consolidated Debris Removal Program in 2007 to clean up the aftermath of the Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe. The majority of properties with affected homes drained into Angora Creek, which runs right into Lake Tahoe. This created an urgency to clean up debris before winter arrived and it washed into the famously clear and pristine lake. Crews were on the ground quickly. Firefighters extinguished most of the blaze by July 4. Ten days later, debris removal crews had the first home site cleared. The whole response effort was completed in three months.
Safe Enough for Our Own Children
From the beginning, this program balanced service to the homeowners, the community, and the environment. “At the time, I had a three-year-old,” Thalhamer recalled. “I’d tell the contractors, if it’s safe for my three-year-old to walk across this lot, then we know that a family is ready to rebuild.” Program staff have always valued this personal level of safety. This means cleaning up dangerous materials most homeowners don’t even realize lay in the ashes of their destroyed houses.
After a wildfire, property owners need experts to identify toxicity in the rubble and ashes.
A few of the invisible toxins common in residential burn scars include:
- Heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, zinc, and lead, which is especially high in homes built before 1978.
- Asbestos, which is present in most homes built before 1985 and in some newer homes as well.
- Hazardous materials such as propane tanks, air conditioners, batteries, pesticides, and herbicides are common in most homes.
For CalRecycle, the disaster debris removal program extends the department’s mission to ensure that California safely manages our materials—whether toxic and recyclable or not—to their best and highest use. It’s what the department does day in and day out. CalRecycle staff are experts in this. The debris removal program intensifies this effort in the service to communities recovering from tragedy.
The Go-To Crew After Disasters
In the years immediately following the 2007 Angora Fire, the debris removal team was only activated one time—for the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion. But in 2014, the Boles Fire in Siskiyou County swept into a neighborhood in Weed destroying over a hundred homes, echoing the devastation seven years previously in South Lake Tahoe. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) called on CalRecycle to respond, and the team has worked almost continuously on cleaning up wildfire debris since then.
Since 2014, CalRecycle has:
- Overseen 20 major disaster projects
- Removed 5.6 million tons of materials (65 percent from the 2019 clean up of the Camp Fire)
- Performed disaster recovery for 16 different counties, from Los Angeles to the Oregon border
- Cleaned and certified 17,297 properties as ready to rebuild in suburban neighborhoods, farms, mountain valley towns, scenic coastlines, and forested cabin areas.
We’re On a Mission from Cal OES
CalRecycle doesn’t take on these projects of its own volition. Cal OES must mission task CalRecycle before we can help. This can happen after Cal OES grants a request for assistance from a local jurisdiction in crisis. In fact, the only major incident in the past five years that CalRecycle didn’t mobilize to clean up was the 2017 North Bay fires, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers handled.
For one key CalRecycle debris team member, the department has proven its expertise in clean up and managing the destroyed materials. “We’ve earned the confidence of others that we can handle projects this size with efficiency,” Alan Zamboanga said.
Zamboanga, who served as the finance chief or contract manager on most of the projects since 2014, points out that CalRecycle continues to demonstrate operational and financial efficiency, including the massive 11,000-property Camp Fire debris recovery project. “Because of our expertise and knowledge, we are the go-to people when it comes to wildfire debris.”
The 2007 Angora Fire Incident Management Team on the site of the last property cleaned.Posted on In the Loop by Chris McSwain on Feb 24, 2020
More. It’s one of baby’s first words and baby’s first wants. More milk. More food. More fun. More stuff.
That primal pursuit of “more” typically grows with age. We buy. We collect. We throw away. In a state of nearly 40 million people this translates to a lot of waste. Californians send about 38 million tons of stuff to landfills each year.
Recycling reversed our direction
We used to landfill even more. Everything changed in the late 1980s when California collectively decided our children deserve a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future.
To lessen the impact of our throw-away culture on the environment, California passed the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act in 1986 and the Integrated Waste Management Act in 1989. These bold actions led to more recycling and more jobs.
Since that time:
- California’s beverage container recycling rate climbed from 52 percent in 1987 to 76 percent in 2018, keeping nearly 400 billion cans and bottles off our streets and out of our landfills and waterways.
- California reduced its landfill disposal by 15 percent, even though its population increased by 34 percent.
- California created and sustained more than 150,000 recycling jobs and a robust recycling infrastructure to help diversify local economies.
Recycling matters now more than ever
Recently cynics have tried to dismiss the value of recycling because of changes in world recycling markets. But as we survey the damage caused by our single-use throwaway culture filling our rivers and oceans with plastic, Californians realize that recycling has become more important than ever.
Many of us who grew up in the 1980s during California’s shift towards recycling now have families of our own. We want to do more for our environment and provide a healthy future for our children.
1. We recycle so our children have quality food grown with compost, not chemicals.
Organic waste makes up two-thirds of California’s disposal stream.
Food waste, green waste, and other organic material can either:
- Decompose in landfills, emitting methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, or
- Be recycled into new products, such as renewable energy or soil-healing compost to turn depleted dirt back into nutrient rich, water retaining, agriculturally productive soil – reducing the need for chemical pesticide and fertilizer use.
Compost also adds living microbes to soil, which pull the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air.
2. We recycle so our children have cleaner air to breath.
Manufacturing products from recycled materials requires less energy and results in fewer GHG emissions than mining, refining, processing, and shipping raw materials to make new products, which results in less burning of fossil fuels.
We can recycle organic waste into carbon-neutral biofuel to produce electricity, fuel, or renewable natural gas, further decreasing fossil fuel use and its environmental and health costs.
3. We recycle to keep trash off our streets and out of our waterways and landfills.
In 2018, California recycled 18.5 billion plastic, glass, aluminum, and bimetal beverage containers – the second highest number in the state history. Since passing its bottle bill, Californians have reduced litter and landfilling by recycling nearly 400 billion beverage containers.
Thanks to the bottle bill, curbside recycling, and other waste reduction, reuse, and recycling efforts, California now recycles the equivalent of roughly one-third of the state’s annual landfill capacity each year, reducing the need for new or expanded garbage dumps. This means less air pollution, water pollution, land used and truck traffic.
4. We recycle because our children deserve more trees to climb.
Preventing one ton of paper waste through recycling, reuse, or non-use saves between 15 and 17 mature trees, according to the US EPA.
Producing paper from recycled pulp requires 40 percent less energy than using wood, further reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.
This savings translates to 4,200 kilowatt hours, 390 gallons of oil, 60 pounds of air pollution, and 7,000 gallons of water, according to MIT.
5. We recycle to fight climate change and create a stronger economy.
When we leave our trash at the curb, it’s efficiently taken away and we never have to think about it again. But we pay an unseen price.
Trash rotting in landfills has real health and environmental impacts. Landfills are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. They add few jobs.
As the effects of climate change lead to more wildfires, severe droughts, sea level rise, floods, and temperature extremes, our trash costs us more than money.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, recycling and composting make good use of resources, while creating new industries and 10 times more jobs than landfilling.
Recycling gives us:
- Healthier food
- Cleaner air
- Less litter and pollution
- More air purifying trees
- Less climate changing gases
Recycling matters more than ever because our children deserve nothing less.Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Jan 6, 2020